Churches are reaching out to youth in new ways:
Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.
Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo — despite its “thou shalt kill” credo — celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.
Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of [Colorado Community Church] said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.
Let the jokes begin:
“If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”
Aren’t these church leaders the same people who say teaching about birth control and condoms in the classroom would provide a mixed message during abstinence-only sex education?
Surprisingly, James Dobson‘s Focus on the Family hasn’t made up its mind on the issue yet:
“Internally, we’re still trying to figure out what is our official view on it,” said Lisa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the group.
I wonder why Left Behind: The Game isn’t the video game of choice… but Halo does have religious themes:
Complicating the debate over the appropriateness of the game as a church recruiting tool are the plot’s apocalyptic and religious overtones. The hero’s chief antagonists belong to the Covenant, a fervent religious group that welcomes the destruction of Earth as the path to their ascension.
Joe put it all in perspective:
Imagine the struggle of parents who don’t want their kids to go to Hell, but have trouble telling them not to go a to a church-sponsored event, because that event is an orgy of pixelated bloodshed where the gamers will try their damnedest to stop a bunch of (fictional) end-times fundamentalists from ruining the planet.
Hey, my church offered free alcohol; I grew up Catholic. But then, I was also taught my halo had to be earned.